Fall is upon us, and that means it’s time to say goodbye to the greens, and hello to the reds, oranges, yellows and browns! The season-change brings beautiful color to many areas in Illinois, and we’ve got the hook up on the best leaf-peeping destinations and drives. Get ready to witness nature near the city and outbound.
State Parks, Botanic Gardens and a Museum of Trees?
Whether you’re looking for a guided tour or want to wander on your own, these four destinations offer great views of the changing leaves.
Starting in Lisle, the Morton Arboretum has more than 222,000 live plants and was founded on the idea that it would serve as a “great outdoor museum” of trees. This October, the arboretum will host a Fall Color Festival throughout the month with a variety of activities for all members of the family, including sipping on ciders amongst the changing leaves, and for the kids, touring the grounds in Halloween costumes!
Photo by Instagram user @ncartwright21
Up next is the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. With more than 2 million plants across 385 acres of land, you’re sure to see the full spectrum of fiery autumn colors. The Chicago Botanic Garden hosts fall-color tree walks in the first two weeks October, but something to look forward to in late October (from the 20-23) is its newest attraction, Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns, where 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins will light up the nights in the Botanic Garden!
A little further south of the city – about 90 minutes driving – is Starved Rock State Park. In the fall, this park is an excellent place for a leisurely stroll or an invigorating hike to see the panoramic views and leaves changing from the top of Starved Rock itself. The park also has an event called the Fall Colors Tour, which includes a trolley ride, lunch and a guided scenic walk to ensure you get the inside scoop on the best of the fall foliage.
Finally, head to the Shawnee National Forest for some prime leaf-peeping. More specifically, the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area shows off amazingly colorful views and even ripe fall fruit like persimmons. With all the beautiful color and unique scenery, this is the ideal place to take great fall photos and capture another magnificent transition of season.
Photo by Instagram user @vermilliondesign
Takin’ the long way: Scenic Drives
Ease on down the road(s) of Illinois to witness some spectacular fall foliage from your car window! Take in the entire western edge of the state with “neature” views along the Great River Road. This path follows the Mississippi River on one side and forests on the other, which makes for some spectacular sights. Not only can you see these beautiful colors, but make sure to meander through the quaint, small towns along the way to experience their fall festivals.
Photo by @visitalton
For a shorter trip, head to Peoria Heights to cruise Grandview Drive, just 2.5 miles long. The “world’s most beautiful drive,” according to President Theodore Roosevelt, is lined with trees which will make for a stunning multicolor view.
Photo by Instagram user @svarttrost
Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive, located between Galesburg and Peoria, is the best to visit during the first two weekends of October when the area’s Fall Festival is in full swing. This year’s festival marks the 49th annual celebration, filled with food, art, entertainment and attractions across the county for all ages to enjoy.
For more ideas on where to view fall foliage throughout Illinois, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.
-Illinois Office of Tourism